LUCKNOW: With the star-studded Ram Lila in Ayodhya approaching its culmination on Sunday, the temple town is resplendent with the grandeur of ‘Treta Yug’, the era of Lord Ram. The illuminated Lakshman Qila along the serene flow of the holy Saryu is the centre of all activity with the dazzling Ram Lila being live streamed every evening for three hours since last Saturday, the first day of ‘Shardiya Navratri.’
Aided by advanced acoustics and technology, the dazzling show is a visual delight with Bollywood stars adding to its sheen through their stellar performances. Throughout the day, the air in the temple town remains loaded with excitement as people, though in small numbers due to the pandemic, start gathering near the venue at dusk with COVID protocols in place.
Doordarshan is streaming the Ram Lila live from Ayodhya on multiple social media platforms. “The show is getting millions of views and has been a great hit,” says a senior officer of Lucknow DD. The broadcast by DD National, which started on October 17, is happening in collaboration with the tourism and cultural department of the Uttar Pradesh government.
The Ram Lila troupe comprises a 120-member crew from Mumbai and 85 artistes including actor-turned-netas like Ravi Kishen and Manoj Tiwari. While Ravi Kishan is playing Bharat, the younger brother of Lord Ram, Manoj Tiwari is essaying Angad, who had gone to Ravana as the apostle of peace on behalf of Lord Ram.
There are half a dozen other Bollywood celebrities including Shahbaz Khan who is bringing Ravana alive on the stage. Asrani plays Narad and Rakesh Bedi is essaying the role of Vibhishan. Vindu Dara Singh is carrying on the legacy of his father Dara Singh by playing the role of Lord Hanuman. The epic story is shot from nine different angles by a 55-member Doordarshan team.
It is a long day for the artists who slog for nine hours a day to bring the show alive in the evening. The day starts early for them as they quickly get into the groove for a three-hour rehearsal and a three-hour makeup session before the three-hour live performance in the evening.
There’s a specialised 12-member makeup team which helps the actors make the stunning transformation into the characters they play. The live performance, which they give with seamless dialogue delivery without a single retake, unlike the liberty at Bollywood sets, is almost matchless.
It is an experience in itself for actor Shahbaz Khan, the Ravana. “We give a non-stop live performance without retakes. We began our rehearsals in early August. Now, an on-stage dress rehearsal is done for three hours every day,” he says.
Ayodhya residents like Anugrah Pandey feel that this year’s Ram Lila has revived the culture in the temple town once again as it was overtaken by Durga Puja during the last few years. “We hope that now with the Ram temple on the anvil, this tradition will continue and will be as lively as it is this year,” says Satyarth Srivastava.
The live performance, which began from October 17, will end with ‘Ravan Dahan’ on Sunday. “A 100-foot tall Ravana effigy is being erected. We have invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the chief guest on this occasion,” said Subhash Malik, director of the Ram Lila.
When Angad blurted out in Hinglish
It was with much fanfare that organisers of Ayodhya Ram Lila had announced the casting of big names for the nine-day event. The result so far has been dazzling with noted actors like Shahbhaz Khan who nailed it as Ravana. However, actor-politician Manoj Tiwari, as Angad, brought in some ‘unintended’ hilarity during the Angad-Ravana Samvad.
Intervening with a raging Ravana, Tiwari as Angad says: “Ek second, Ek second” while delivering the flurry of dialogues in crisp Hindi. If this was not enough, referring to Hanuman, he ends up saying "Wo Hamari 'team' ka Chhota Bandar hai". Needless to say, ‘Rinkiya ke Papa is all over social media,’ for his unintended comical goof-ups.